Road Trip 2010 Day 11: Portland, Chinatown, Lan Su Chinese Garden, Washington Park, Portland Japanese Garden

by Kara on August 8, 2010

Painted Boat in Misty Rain, Lan Su Chinese Garden, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

Of any of the motels we’ve stayed in so far on this trip, the Econolodge Convention Center was probably the most disappointing. It wasn’t horrible, but the area wasn’t the safest, the toilet didn’t work properly, the bed was hard, there were no extra pillows, and the continental breakfast was extremely fattening pre-packaged pastries. It was $88 per night, which isn’t that much, but it was pretty darn mediocre for the price.

Our first stop this morning was the Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park. Unfortunately, when we walked up to the top of the path to the entrance, we found out that it was members only until 10:00 am, and it was just after 9:00 am. So we got back in the car and drove down to Chinatown, which is in Old Town Portland. There are a number of missions on the edge of Chinatown, and it is a little run down as well. But there were a lot of men around picking up trash, so they do try to keep up with the mess.

Lake Tai Rocks, Lan Su Chinese Garden, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

We took a few pictures of the Chinatown gate, then walked over to the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Admission was $8.50 per adult. For me, it was worth it, and though the garden was small, I thought it was absolutely beautiful. I was especially intrigued by the patterned rock paths, and I’d like to investigate creating something similar on a smaller scale in our yet unfinished (and barely started) back yard. The garden gave me a lot of ideas.

Rock Path in the Lan Sue Chinese Garden, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

While we were standing looking out over Lake Zither (which is about 8,000 square feet), something hit the water hard. I thought someone had thrown a huge rock in the lake. But it was actually a large hawk of some sort swooping in to catch one of the fish. He immediately took off with his prize. It created a big sensation in the garden and it happened about two feet in front of us. Garden staff said that it is a frequent occurrence. I guess a portion of our entrance fees go toward restocking the lake with goldfish.

Waterfall in the Portland Japanese Garden, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

We drove downtown briefly, and Stephen took a few pictures of the Courthouse, but we wanted to get back to Washington Park. By this time it was 11:00 am, so we were able to enter the Japanese Garden. Admission was $9.50 per adult. The Japanese Garden was quite a bit larger than the Chinese Garden, but of course it is in a park rather than the middle of a city block. I probably enjoyed the two gardens equally, but the ideal experience would be to be the only person in the garden. That is nearly an impossibility, but it would certainly be even more tranquil. The Japanese Garden was even more crowded, probably due in large part to its location in the park. Definitely worth the price of admission despite the crowd.

Lantern in the Portland Japanese Garden, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

After the garden, we kind of just drove all over Washington Park to see what we might want to photograph. The Oregon Zoo is there, but we don’t really go to zoos anymore. I know that zoos have really improved and some of them are doing important conservation work, but it is getting harder and harder to want to see animals in cages. There is a native wildlife rehabilitation center in southern Oregon that I would like to visit, but I want to look into it a little bit more before I decide to do so. I only want to give them money if they are truly doing good work and not just exploiting the animals.

The only other place in the park we stopped was to take a few photos of a train on display outside the Discovery Museum.

Portland Japanese Garden, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

At that point, we decided to drive to the hotel and check in and nap a bit before leaving to take late afternoon photos. This time, I made a Priceline reservation at the Comfort Suites near the Portland Airport. Wow! What a difference from last night. We paid less and it was WAY nicer. The room was fairly large and had a refrigerator and microwave. There were plenty of pillows and the bed was really comfortable. We napped for a couple hours before going back downtown.

Our Eyewitness book for the Northwest states showed a walking tour of downtown Portland, so we found a place to park and loosely followed the route they recommended. Downtown Portland is definitely an active place, even on a Sunday evening. Our main focus was to get some good pictures of the courthouse, so we started there, then walked around for awhile until the light was better.

We stopped for dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and the sushi was first-rate. We also had tempura udon, and while the soup and noodles were good, the tempura batter got extremely soggy. The service was good, and I would definitely eat there again.

After dinner, we went back to Courthouse Square and Stephen set up for his pictures while I worked on my travelogue. Courthouse Square is a popular hangout and there was one shirtless guy rocking out to whatever was on his headphones (if anything). he was sitting next to a statue of a man with an umbrella, and whenever anyone would go up to the statue to have their picture taken with it, he would start singing Rihanna’s song, Umbrella. He was having a grand time. After a bit, I was starting to get chilly and the light still wasn’t right, so I went into the Starbucks that was right next to where we were set up and got some hot chocolate and worked inside for awhile. By the time I wandered back out, Stephen was just about finished. It was nearly 9:00 pm, and I was definitely ready to get back to the hotel to relax.

We decided this hotel was a really good spot, so we added one more night here. We didn’t want to take a chance and get stuck in another Econolodge type situation. Luckily, the Comfort Suites has a guest laundry (one washer and one dryer) and no one was using it, so I was able to do a load of laundry. While the wash was going, I just stood and worked on my travelogue on the little shelf they had there, which I assume was meant for folding clothes. They sold boxes of detergent for $1 and the washer and dryer were $1 each, so one load is $3. That is definitely worth it when you have a full load of dirty clothes (but I’m glad we had just one load). So once the laundry is done, I can finally go relax. At least I only have to do laundry tonight and not again tomorrow night.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary Ellen August 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I’m guessing that you didn’t feel any need to go to Powell’s City of Books? I love spending time there.

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